The Week Ahead: 15-21 October

The Week Ahead: 15-21 October

China’s 19th Party Congress. Egypt’s state of emergency. Catalonian independence. Elections in Kyrgyzstan. US-Turkey relations.  All in The Week Ahead. 

Power plays at China’s 19th Communist Party Congress

On 18 October, the 19th Party Congress of the Communist Party of China (CCP) will open in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. Held every five years, the Party Congress features the election of the new Central Committee (205 members and 171 alternate members), which in turn elects a new Politburo (25 members) and Politburo Standing Committee (5-9 members). Xi Jinping is expected to stay on as President, Commander-in-Chief, General Secretary of the ruling CCP, Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and “core” leader for at least another term. However, GRI anticipates that he will attempt to consolidate his position in order to stay on beyond 2022 and serve a third term.

GRI take: Expect constitutional amendments and reshuffles at the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s most powerful decision-making body.

Egypt to extend state of emergency for 3 months

Egyptian President Abdel el-Sisi signed a declaration on 12 October to extend the state of emergency by three months. The declaration came into force on Friday 13th and now has to be approved by parliament within seven days, which is likely. The state of emergency was originally declared in April 2017, after bombing attacks on Coptic churches killed dozens of people. The increase in terrorist casualties this year dealt a severe blow to Sisi’s authority. It looks like the state of emergency – which grants security forces greater surveillance powers –  is at least partly designed to tighten the president’s grip on power and push through deeply unpopular economic reforms, all while achieving little to address the terror threat. Egyptians’ trust in their security forces has been falling, and public distrust of the government will deepen if further attacks take place.

GRI take: Alongside continuing economic challenges, this makes for a high risk period in Egypt.

Catalonia given 5 days to confirm independence vote

As Catalan President Carles Puigdemont appears to equivocate over whether independence had been declared or not, Madrid has given him 5 days to clarify what Spanish President Mariano Rajoy has called “deliberate confusion”. If independence is confirmed on Monday, 16 October, Catalonia will have another 3 days to revoke the declaration, or face the invocation of Article 155 of Spain’s constitution. This would allow Madrid to take over control of the region, and may be accompanied by the deployment of the Spanish Army.  The Catalan side sees this latest move as indicative of Spain’s belligerence in the face of Puigdemont’s offer of dialogue. Although realistically, Catalonia faces serious obstacles to succeeding as an independent state, Puigdemont will find it difficult to backtrack due to fears of public protests fuelled by his coalition partners, the radical Candidatura d’Unitat Popular Party.

GRI take: Whether due to Spanish intervention or civil unrest, violent risks will be elevated in Barcelona this week.

Elections in Kyrgyzstan signal new stability?

After a turbulent post-independence history, which saw revolutions overturn governments in 2005 and 2010, Kyrgyzstan is set to see a peaceful transition of power in elections on 15 October. Outgoing President Almazbek Atambaev is leaving office voluntarily. The candidates competing to replace him are Omurbek Babanov, leader of the opposition Respublika party, and former Prime Minister Sooronbay Jeenbekov, of the Social Democratic Party (SDPK). A win by Jeenbekov would represent continuity, as he is Atambaev’s chosen successor, but could also result in competition within the ruling elite: his running-mate comes from a competing power-centre.

GRI take: Jeenbekov will continue Atambaev’s authoritarian trend, but may not be as adept at balancing regional interests. A Babanov win, still possible if the elections are fair, would result in political turmoil as elites jockey for power.

Diplomatic row worsens U.S.-Turkey relations

The U.S. Embassy suspended visa services across Turkey after an employee of the American consulate in Istanbul was arrested for suspected links to Gulen. Turkey responded in kind, suspending visa applications from Americans. The move exemplifies a trend of worsening relations triggered by the 15 July attempted coup and continued American recalcitrance to extradite Gulen. Turkey’s tit-for-tat maneuvering is a gamble, risking Turkey’s reputation within NATO and regional isolation within Western alliances. However, a further embrace of the Russian-led Eastern Bloc is not a given. The importance of Turkey’s economic relationship with the United States cannot be overstated. After this week’s diplomatic row, the Lira dropped almost 7% and bond yields soared. Further, the U.S. remains Turkey’s 5th largest export market today. Both Turkey’s long-term economic and political priorities, especially Turkey’s desire to curtail Washington’s goodwill towards the Kurds in the region, necessitate a pragmatic resolution between the two states.

GRI take: The feasibility of a reconciliation depends in large part on the U.S.’s cooperation with the Gulen investigation and Erdogan’s foreign policy’s bullishness.


Stay ahead of the news cycle with GRI. Drawing on expert knowledge and local sources, The Week Ahead provides analytical foresight on the consequences of key upcoming political developments.  

This edition of The Week Ahead was produced by GRI Editor in Chief Alisa Lockwood and Managing Editor William Christou.

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